By Desiree Hoffman
Director of Advocacy, YWCA USA
The spectacle to defund, replace, repeal or halt the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) continues in Congress.
Even though House leadership has now voted 42 times to repeal or otherwise undermine Obamacare, they are at it again. In a ping-pong style match, the House and Senate have come to an impasse over efforts to defund and delay the ACA, resulting in a government shutdown that went into effect at midnight last night. The last shutdown, which occurred during the Clinton administration more than 17 years ago, comprised a total of 28 days and cost the nation more than $1 billion, according to congressional researchers. This one, depending how long it lasts, could have huge costs, both economically and otherwise.
All of this posturing is occurring during a very historic week for the ACA. This week marks a pivotal chapter for the uninsured, many of whom are women. Starting today, millions of healthcare consumers will be able to enroll in new, affordable insurance plans, with coverage effective as early as January 1, 2014. The enrollment period spans six months: October 1, 2013 to March 2014. All insurance plans will have to cover doctor visits, hospitalizations, maternity care, emergency room care, and prescription drugs. You can find a plan that fits your budget and get financial help paying for premiums if you need it. You may also get help with cost-sharing, such as deductibles and co-payments.
The ACA’s benefits have been far-reaching, and have not yet been fully realized for women and girls. Prior to the ACA, health coverage could be rescinded simply because domestic violence, cesarean sections and cancer could be classified as “pre-existing conditions.” Now, insurance companies can no longer discriminate against women for having a pre-existing condition. Before the ACA, children over 18 were required to obtain individual healthcare coverage, unless they were enrolled in college or could remain on their family’s plan. Now, they are able to stay on their parents’ coverage until they are 26 years old, giving them access to healthcare in a tough economic time when jobs are still scarce. Before the ACA, women were required to pay a co-pay or deductible for basic, preventive health care services. Unfortunately, this precluded many women from receiving many routine screenings that would have helped identify potentially serious conditions at earlier, more treatable stage. Now, new preventive guidelines in ACA allow women of all socioeconomic backgrounds to receive 22 covered preventive services, eight of which must be provided at no out-of-pocket cost.
YWCAs across the country are coordinating with navigators and community based organizations to get the word out about enrolling in the Health Insurance Marketplaces. As Champions for Coverage, YWCAs also are training to be certified in-person assisters and certified application counselor organizations, holding health care enrollment fairs to enroll newly eligible consumers.
The YWCA USA will continue to oppose efforts to repeal, replace or weaken the ACA and support its implementation.
For further resources, click here:
- On the Web: For the latest on the Health Insurance Marketplaces, visit healthcare.gov.
- Call Centers: A new call center is now available to help answer questions 24/7. Representatives will provide assistance in more than 150 languages through an interpretation and translation service, call 1-800-318-2596. Hearing impaired callers using TTY/TDD technology can call 1-855-889-4325 for assistance.
- For Small Businesses: The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) launches next week to give small businesses (under 50 employees) new ways to provide coverage to their employees. A call center to serve small businesses interested in the SHOP Marketplace has also been created: call 1-800-706-7893.
- Toolkit for Community and Faith-Based Organizations: This toolkit was designed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help community leaders learn and educate others about the health care law. These materials can be used as bulletin inserts, at enrollment events and for other education and outreach efforts.